“Drawing Projects For Kids” by Paula Briggs.
Black Dog Publishing.
How would you like a drawing book that encourages risk taking in art? A book that emphasises process over product? A book that encourages experimentation within guidance? A book that is full of messy-get-your-hands-dirty drawing projects? In short, a book with smudgy fingerprints all over it? Well if these things tick your boxes like they tick mine, “Drawing Projects for Kids” is the art book for you.
Paula Briggs has not only created a beautiful object with this book. She has created a welcome antidote to a world (wide web) full of outcome based children’s activities that seem to be all about the photo opportunity to display on whatever platform - blog/insta/facebook/twitter – a parent chooses. She says in the section aimed at the facilitator:
“For children to get the most out of drawing, they need to be encouraged to push beyond what they consider ‘safe’ (‘safe’ drawings are those in which we know what the outcome is going to be before we have even started making them) and to take risks. By doing so they will widen their concept of what drawing is and
what they are capable of achieving.”
This is very much a gorgeous(smudgy) hands on book, divided into two sections - warm up drawing exercises and more in depth projects. So the only real way to review this book was to try it out. First up – to rustle some children (fortunately not a challenge for me). Here are two I prepared earlier. Pepper and Wanda are active creative 7-almost-8-year-olds.
The book is firmly aimed at children but without any dumbing down of language or “fun speak” or the sort of cutesy Dr Suess sort of language you often find with this target audience. For example:
“All of the projects in this book also use a huge range of drawing materials from inks and watercolours to graphite and pastels. Remember, great drawing experiences are not always about the outcome, but often about the things you learn when you experiment. So get ready to try out some new techniques, and make some wonderful creations!”
This tone generates respect for the child artist, for the materials being used and for the activity being undertaken. I read sections aloud to the kids first and we discussed some of the concepts – risk taking, process, not worrying about “mistakes”, no rubbing out etc. These are hugely neglected concepts in the world of a 7-almost-8-year old art practice. They are at an age where they lose the earlier wildness of creativity and have been firmly indoctrinated into school ideas of right and wrong and drawing like the person next to you, with a seemingly strong preoccupation on getting eyes and noses especially “right”!
While Paula Briggs suggests this book is aimed to be used independently by children, I found it does benefit from focused facilitating. And for kids this age? Fairly strong facilitation is required. Fortunately I had a background in art and understood the materials and requirements of the tasks, but it is written with point by point instructions, a colour coded idea of levels of intensity and a material list like a recipe and is therefore very accessible. For preparation we made a trip to the local art shop with a list in hand – lots of newsprint paper, various pencils, charcoals and pastels and some ink – and we were ready.We began with some warm ups which were wonderfully fun and challenging. Just look at the concentration on these faces.
This “continuous line drawing” warm up was a terrific way to display process over outcome. Pens, paper, still life and go. The kids had look at the object and draw it while not lifting their pen from the page. They were happy to keep trying this for ages!
Our second warm up was “backwards-forwards sketching”. This was a good way to focus on looking and observing while slowing down the hand and creating texture.
My kids are very physical and these drawing ideas are also very physical – hand-eye coordination, large gestural mark making and sustained concentration. We interspersed the activities with kicking the footy in the back yard to freshen up.
We enjoyed perusing all the projects in the book and the kids have ear marked many they want to try asap. But the obvious “project” to undertake right away was the “Autumn Floor Drawing”. We ran around the house and street collecting leaves, seed husks, plants and all things Autumnal.
I found myself joining in and rediscovering the joys of charcoal and of delicate lines and shading in a way I hadn’t indulged in years. It was so relaxing, for me and for the kids, to play with the materials without any pressure on the result.
“Drawing Projects For Kids”, while not completely independently accessible to younger children, actually benefits from involving a facilitator as well as the child. I found that Paula Briggs language and ideas generate an inspirational and stimulating practical art experience. Through warm ups and projects she extends children’s idea of mark making and drawing into a new realm. It challenges children (and teachers and parents) to explore, take artistic risks and to discover the fun inherent in drawing when there is no pressure for the outcome. It is a book we will return to and from just one day of experimenting it has already inspired these two kids to observe things a little differently and to think more about how to represent their world through art.
“Drawing Projects for Kids” is highly recommended for those who love messy art. For those who want to encourage careful observation, thoughtful mark making and inspire artistic processes. For those who understand that experimentation and sustained exploration of a medium is more important than a quick simple art activity that results in a picture perfect photo opportunity. Go get the book, some supplies, some kids and get your fingers dirty.
This review was first posted on whipup